Vernacular Furniture of North-West India

By Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The Vernacular Furniture of North-West India Project is a research on vernacular furniture conducted by Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre (DICRC), CRDF, CEPT University, India & The South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust  (SADACC), Norwich, UK.

Khatlo (Charpoy)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Vernacular Furniture

Vernacular furniture is used in the everyday life of people of a particular region or community. It is made by craftspeople using locally available materials. In a country like India, where the vernacular fabric changes every few hundred kilometres, a region’s architecture, interior architecture and furniture are excellent examples that reflect several social and cultural aspects of that particular region. Collectively these elements provide a unique identity to a community or a region as a whole. 

Map showing DICRC and SADACCDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Vernacular Furniture of North West India

Vernacular Furniture of North-West India is an international collaborative research project between Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre (DICRC), CRDF, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India and South Asian Decorative Arts and Craft Collection (SADACC) Trust, Norwich, UK. 

India Map with RegionsDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Initiated in December 2015, the project aimed at identifying, mapping, documenting and studying vernacular furniture that has traditionally been, and continues to be an inherent part of the day-to-day life in an Indian household. The research was executed in three stages:
Phase I: Gujarat;
Phase II: Rajasthan;
Phase III: Punjab and Haryana.

VFG Region MapDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Phase I: Gujarat

Gujarat is the most westerly of the Indian states and has an area of 196,024 km². The coastline stretches for over 16,000 km. The first phase of the project was conducted in Gujarat.

Residence from GujaratDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Phase I : Project overview

Furniture documented - 1380. Distance travelled - 13716 km. People met - 610. Typology of furniture - 31.

VFG Places visited mapDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The team visited 73 different places in Gujarat and mapped vernacular furniture in various contexts.

Residence at Judavant, GujaratDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Vernacular furniture and objects were identified in residential spaces. The image showcases a residence in Judavant village from Chhota Udepur district of Gujarat.

Naulakha palace, GondalDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Vernacular furniture was also recorded in forts and palaces. Naulakha Palace is a part of Darbargardh Fort Complex at Gondal in Rajkot from Gujarat.

Damachiyo (Mattress bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Various types of furniture were identified during the field visits. This is a damachiyo, a matteress bench recorded in the Hodka village of Kutch.

Majus (Cabinet)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Intricately carved furniture were one of the findings like this majus. A majus is a cabinet used for storing clothes and personal belongings.

Regional divisions and districts map of RajasthanDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Phase II: Rajasthan

Rajasthan, with an area of 342,274 sq. km. is the second largest state in India. The state is bordered by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on the east, Punjab and Haryana on the north, and Gujarat to the south. It shares international borders with Pakistan on the west. The field work in Rajasthan was carried out between January 2017 and December 2017.

Pidha (stool)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Phase II: Project overview

Furniture documented - 1519. Distance travelled - 14,679 kms. People met - 1266. Typology of furniture - 54.

VFR Places visited mapDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Overall, 95 different places were visited in the state of Rajasthan by the team in search of vernacular furniture.

Street view from ChuruDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Havelis and palaces were visited in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. The image shows a cluster of havelis in Sardarshahr, Churu, Rajasthan.

Street view from BharatpurDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Furniture were documented in many villages that were visited across Rajasthan. This image shows vernacular houses from Umred village in Bharatpur, Rajasthan

Pidha (Low chair)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Museums and private collections were also visited during the research. This image shows a set of pidha (low chair) placed around a chowki (low surface) that were part of a collection.

Sinhaasan (Throne)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

In Rajasthan, various types of royal thrones are known as sinhaasan. Thrones in outdoor settings are called aasan.

Paniyara (Water pitcher storage)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Some vernacular furniture form an integral part of the architecture in Rajasthan. Paniyara, parendi and parinda are water pitcher storages built into the walls and are used to store water pots.

VFP Region MapDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Phase III (a): Pubjab

Punjab is the northernmost state (50,362 sq. km.) lying in the plains of central India. It is bordered by Jammu and Kashmir in the north, Himachal Pradesh to the east and Haryana and Rajasthan to the south. Pakistan lies to the west of Punjab. Most of the area of Punjab is covered with plains which are fertile. This has helped in the formation of extensive farmlands. The Shivalik range starts from the northern parts of Punjab: Gurdaspur & Pathankot districts.

Due to rainfall deficiency in Punjab, many canals have been taken out from rivers Beas, Sutlej and Ravi. This efficient canal system has enabled Punjab for farming and is called as the granary of the country and nucleus of the Green Revolution. The fieldwork in Punjab was carried out between May 2018 and June 2019.

Manja (Charpoy)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Phase III (a): Project overview 

Furniture documented - 2782. Distance travelled - 18138 km. People met - 1823. Typology of furniture - 43.

VFP Places visited mapDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The team travelled to 150 different places in the state of Punjab in search of vernacular furniture in various contexts.

Residence at SakraliDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A residence in the middle of the fields in the Sakrali village of Patiala district of Punjab.

Gurudwara at SakraliDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Vernacular furniture were also recorded in religious places. The image shows a gurdwara in Sakrali village of Patiala district of Punjab.

Residence at KhurshedpurDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A vernacular residence in Khurshedpur village of Ludhiana district in Punjab.

Sandook (Cabinet)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Stories and narratives related to vernacular furniture were recorded. Sandook (cabinet) is one of the storage furniture gifted as a part of the bridal trousseau (daaj) to the bride by her family.

Manja (Charpoy)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Manja is one of the most ubiquitous furniture in Punjabi households. It is a charpoy with turned or carved wooden legs fixed to a frame around which the surface is woven.

Cultutal regions of HaryanaDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Phase III (b): Haryana

Haryana is one of the smallest states (44,212 sq.km) in India with diverse cultural heritage. The state of Haryana is landlocked and surrounded by Himachal Pradesh on North, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh on East, Punjab on North-West and Rajasthan on South and South-West. The field work in Haryana was carried out between May 2019 and December 2019.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Phase III (b): Haryana | Project overview

Furniture documented - 2205. Distance travelled - 15,499 kms. People met - 470. Typology of furniture - 39.

VFH Places visited mapDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Overall 111 different places were visited in the region of Haryana and various vernacular furniture were recorded different context.

View of Barwa VillageDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The image shows an old haveli and a newly built residence in Barwa village of Bhiwani district, Haryana. Vernacular furniture were recorded in both old as well as new houses.

Residence at BhiwaniDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A view of the residence in the the Bhiwani village of Bhiwani District in Haryana.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Public buildings like chaupal also housed vernacular furniture like takhat. A takhat is a bench used as a seating furniture by men in chaupal.

Palang (Bed)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

To study various crafts and techniques used in making of the furniture was one of the key aspects of the project. This palang (bed) had incricately carved headboard and footboard with an image of deities encased in it.

Field Visit pictureDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Outcomes of the project

The project was conducted over a period of six years and several resources were developed as outputs. A number of newsletters, presentations, short films, exhibitions were developed. The most crucial resources are: Books, Catalogues of Vernacular Furniture and Drawing Portfolios.

Sahaj Cover pageDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Sahaj: Vernacular Furniture of Gujarat, co-authored by Mitraja Bais, Jay Thakkar, Samrudha Dixit and Ben Cartwright, is the result of the first-ever survey and accompanying research of vernacular furniture in Gujarat. It is the result of Phase I: Gujarat of the Vernacular Furniture of North-West India project.

Anaikya Cover pageDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Anaikya: Vernacular Furniture of Rajasthan, co-authored by Mansi S Rao, Ben Cartwright and Samrudha Dixit, is a result of Phase II: Rajasthan of the Vernacular furniture of North-West India project.

VFG Catalogue cover pageDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Gujarat, co-authored by Mitraja Bais, Jay Thakkar, Samrudha Dixit, Ben Cartwright and Mansi S Rao, features over 400 pieces of vernacular furniture and objects from Gujarat. These pieces have been shortlisted from nearly 1200 examples of furniture and objects recorded across the state.

VFR Catalogue cover pageDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Rajasthan, co-authored by Mansi S Rao, Samrudha Dixit and Ben Cartwright, features over 500 pieces of vernacular furniture and objects from Rajasthan. These pieces have been shortlisted from nearly 1519 examples of furniture and objects recorded across the state.

VFP Catalogue cover pageDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Punjab, co-authored by Rishav Jain, Mansi S Rao, Ben Cartwright and Abhishek Ruikar, features over 450 pieces of vernacular furniture and objects from Punjab. These pieces have been shortlisted from nearly 2782 examples of furniture and objects recorded across the state.

VFH Catalogue cover pageDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Haryana, co-authored by Mansi S Rao, Rishav Jain, Ben Cartwright and Radha Devpura, features over 470 pieces of vernacular furniture and objects from Haryana. These pieces have been shortlisted from nearly 2205 examples of furniture and objects recorded across the state.

Drawing portfolio cover pagesDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Drawing Portfolios

Drawing Portfolio is a collection of technical drawings of vernacular furniture pieces. There are four volumes of drawing portfolios, one from each respective state.  It is one of the outputs of the Vernacular Furniture of North-West India project. From all the four states, a total of 124 furniture from the furniture typology were selected and 744 drawings are produced in detail, containing 2D and 3D isometric and exploded views. 

Credits: Story

The research on this story was conducted as part of the Vernacular Furniture of North-West India project, a collaborative research project conducted between 2015 - 2021 by the Design Innovation and Craft Research Centre (DICRC), CEPT University, Ahmedabad, and the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust (SADACC), Norwich, UK.

For more information on the project and to learn more about the Vernacular Furniture of India, please visit: www.vernacularfurnitureofindia.com

Explore the online exhibitions of the regional vernacular furnitures here.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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